Cain Leads GOP Field in National Poll

Cain Leads GOP Field in National Poll

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - November 2, 2011

Herman Cain sits at the top of the Republican field in a new national poll that finished surveying voters as allegations surfaced that the candidate had engaged in inappropriate behavior toward two women in the 1990s.

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO attracts 30 percent support from Republican voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in second place with 23 percent. Cain gets the most support from women, 33 percent, and has a marginal lead over Romney among men, 27 percent to 25 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the only other contender to score in double digits, placing a distant third with 10 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets 8 percent, and his fellow Texan, Rep. Ron Paul, receives 7 percent. None of the remaining candidates polls above 4 percent.

Republicans find Cain likable by an 82 percent to 5 percent margin. Romney also receives a solid favorability rating of 76 percent among Republicans. But overall, the poll suggests voters have more confidence in Romney’s ability as president than they do in Cain's. Forty-nine percent of voters -- from both parties -- say that Cain lacks the knowledge and experience to be an effective president (29 percent say he does have the requisite knowledge and experience). Republicans have more faith in him, with 54 percent saying he has what it takes to be president while 26 percent disagree. By a 51 percent to 32 percent margin, voters have confidence in Romney’s ability. That ratio is higher among Republicans (75 percent to 13 percent).

"Cain's lead in the horse race is built on voters' positive views of him personally, but there are warning signs that his lack of political experience could make it difficult for him to eventually close the sale," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement released with the poll.

Meanwhile, President Obama leads his Republican challengers in hypothetical head-to-head general election matchups. Obama bests Romney, 47 percent to 42 percent, but loses independents by five points. The president tops Cain by 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent, but splits independents. Obama beats Perry, 52 percent to 36 percent, and wins independents by 12 points. He leads Gingrich by 15 points overall and by 11 points among independents.

In the past month, Obama’s favorability ratings have turned positive, though by a narrow margin. Forty-nine percent of voters like him while 46 percent have an unfavorable view of him. In a Quinnipiac poll released in early October, only 42 percent of voters had a favorable view of him while 53 percent had an unfavorable view. The president has also improved his job performance grade but still remains under water. Forty-seven percent of voters approve of his job performance while 49 percent disapprove. He has some work to do with independents, who disapprove of the job he is doing by a 54 percent to 39 percent margin.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 2,294 registered voters, including 869 Republicans, from Oct. 25-31. The margin of error for the overall sample is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. The sampling error for Republicans is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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